Strategies for Writing Conclusions

Like introductions, conclusions have a key textual function: they escort the reader out of the paper, just as the introduction has brought them in.  What does the reader want as they leave the textual world you have taken them through?  In some combination, most readers want three things: a judgment, a culmination, and a send-off.

Judgment—The conclusion is a place for final judgment on whatever question, issue, or problem the paper’s thesis has focused on.  In most cases, the judgment often repeats some of the key terms in the introduction; however, the conclusion reconsiders the essay’s thesis.  It also revisits the introductory claim for why the topic matters.

Culmination—More than simply summarizing what has proceeded or reasserting your main points, or thesis, the conclusion needs to culminate.  At the end of the paper, you can assume your reader now has a grasp of the facts.  The conclusion should bring these facts and assertions together and ascend to a cumulative statement of your thinking about the subject.

Send-Off—The climactic effects of the judgment and culmination provide the basis for the send-off.  The send off leads your reader out of the paper with something further to think about.  In other words, the conclusion needs to move beyond the close argumentation or analysis of data that has occupied the body of the paper into a broader speculation of the larger picture.

The conclusion should avoid redundancy by providing more than a restatement of what you’ve already said in the previous section of your essay.  Here are three more suggestions regarding what an effective conclusion should accomplish.

Pursue implications—Reason from the results of your study to consider the broader issues, such as your thesis’ practical consequences or applications, or future-oriented issues, such as avenues for further research or questioning.  To unfold implications in this way is to broaden the view from the here-and-now of your paper by looking outward to the wider world and forward to the future.

Come full circle—Unify your paper by interpreting the results of your analysis and argumentation in light of the context established in your introduction.

Identify limitations—Acknowledge restrictions of the method or focus in your argumentation, and qualify your conclusion (and its implications) accordingly.